Study Guide

al-Fārābī

by Fārābī Abū Nasr al-

al-Fārābī Biography

Author Profile (Critical Survey of Ethics and Literature)

Al-Fārābī’s ethical thought is intimately intertwined with his Neoplatonic emanation scheme, in which the One generates a hierarchy of concentric spheres. The Intellect of the lunar sphere (the Active Intellect) emanates pure intelligibles to the human realm. In The Opinions of the Inhabitants of the Virtuous City, al-Fārābī argued that the immortality of the soul was dependent on its actualization in apprehension of that Intellect. The virtuous city is well-led, so that its citizens are reminded of a life beyond this one. Its citizens achieve moral virtue, which allows reason to govern appetites and passions, and they turn their attention to the gifts of the Active Intellect. Such souls find bliss in the afterlife. Less-actualized souls simply cease to exist (if they were ignorant of the Active Intellect) or, if they were excessively attached to bodily pleasures, endure a limited series of transmigrations or torment caused by separation from the body after death. Al-Fārābī had an important place in the philosophy of Avicenna, Albertus Magnus, and, through them, Saint Thomas Aquinas.